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Boise, again, asks city to lower wastewater rate

Representatives for Boise Cascade are again requesting that the city of St. Helens lower their facility's wastewater rates to more accurately reflect the wood-pulp manufacturer's decreasing output into the city's secondary wastewater lagoon.

The decision is conjuring feelings of déjà vu among city councilors, who just two months ago approved a new wastewater rate for the facility, which would eventually decrease from 67 to 60.5 percent of the city's total effluent output.

Tim Sawabe, Boise Cascade's controller, has requested the city take another look at the facility's wastewater rates, Sawabe said. Boise would like the city to follow the recommendation of a joint city-Boise advisory committee and drop the rate to as low as 54 percent.

'Boise cannot afford to subsidize city services,' Sawabe told city officials at a Wednesday afternoon work session.

City Council's June decision called for a phased 6.5 percent decrease in Boise's wastewater rate over a 12-month period.

Boise Cascade's output is consistent with the 54 percent figure, however. The company projects that to drop as low as 52 percent by March 2011.

If councilors agree to the rate decrease, a clause in the agreement would require Boise to pay extra if the company increases its effluent output.

In June, Boise officials seemed to accept the city's plan for a phased decrease. At the recent work session, City Councilor Doug Morten lamented having to return to the issue, saying it should have been worked out two months ago.

Others on City Council said it would be unfair to St. Helens residents to continue dropping the rates. Wastewater rates have increased in recent years and will likely do so in the future, regardless of the city's decision on Boise's water rates.

'We've all had huge rate increases,' said Councilor Phil Barlow, who's become a critic of Boise Cascade. 'It's not just your numbers.'

St. Helens Mayor Randy Peterson will again not participate in the negotiation because his brother continues to work at the facility.